Jane Austen is the Feminist Icon We Need Today

Jane Austen is a BAMF.

I’ve read Pride and Prejudice more times than I can count. I can pretty much pinpoint when my undying love for Colin Firth started as he, as Mr. Darcy, uttered these words, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Swoon.

As a lover of Pride and Prejudice, I am ashamed to admit that until this summer I had never read any of Jane’s other works. So what does a newly graduated, unemployed, self-proclaimed feminist like myself do once she doesn’t have to read piles of reading for class? She reads Jane Austen.

I embarked on a journey through jolly old England, full of bonnets and petticoats, dashing and devious men and a whole lot of strong, amazing women who inspire me. Jane really rocked my world. Not only did she write piercingly good love stories, with men that girls still swoon over, she wrote exactly what she wanted to write and showed stiff 1800’s England that ladies can be fierce, smart, strong, and sassy. Close your computer, pick up one of Jane’s six novels and dig in—you won’t regret it.

Reminder: Jane Austen is a BAMF

SHE GAVE WOMEN A VOICE 

I learned that Jane Austen is just as relevant and ground breaking today as she was 200 years ago. At the time of her writings, women were supposed to marry at age 18, have lots of babies, and shut up. That was their job, but Jane saw to it that funny, smart, beautiful women were given a voice through her novels. All of the heroines are different, but they all marry for love, which for the time is groundbreaking. This seems obvious to us 21st century modern gals, but to the women living in 1800’s England, this was not always the case and wasn’t even the most important aspect of marriage.

SHE KEPT IT REAL

Jane let her heroines be flawed and sometimes downright unlikeable. She famously said that “no one but myself will much like,” her heroine Emma Woodhouse. All of the women in her novels make mistakes. Even Lizzie Bennet, who is praised as being modern and outspoken, held onto her first impressions for too long. Jane wasn’t afraid to make the women in her books real women, flaws and all, which is something that the entertainment industry is still fighting against to this day.

SHE STARTED SQUAD GOALS

Jane champions female friendship. Each of her heroines have their OTP, but it’s not the men in their life, it’s the ladies. She shows women hanging out with women in a realistic way. In some of her books the women aren’t true friends, but in the end those characters always end up exposed as fake and selfish. She portrays women who are true friends. We could all use a Charlotte Lucas or Mrs. Taylor in our life. But she also writes about the all too real reality that girls can be mean. We all can relate to that.

SHE STUCK IT TO THE MAN 

She called out the patriarchy when it needed to be called out. I don’t usually fist pump when I’m reading a book, but I couldn’t help but get riled up after I read this passage from Persuasion, when Anne Elliot calls out a man for using books and poems to prove a point about women.

“Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.”

I’m sorry, but could this not be said today and still ring true? Of course we have evolved and we have more rights than ever before, but with 62 million girls in the world still not getting the education they have a right to, this is still sadly as applicable as it was when it was published in 1818.

Jane showed me that you don't have to be anyone other than yourself. All of the ladies she wrote about were true to themselves in some way or another. Fanny Price was reserved and shy, Emma was opinionated and passionate, Elizabeth was fiercely independent and loyal to those she loved. All of the women in the novels had unique characteristics that made them who they were, and each of them stayed true to themselves, even if they were not the prettiest, most accomplished, "ideal" woman for the time. After Mr. Darcy slights Lizzie, she doesn't change herself to become more like the other ladies, instead she calls him out on his outdated ideas of what makes a woman accomplished and ultimately stays true to herself. And if that's not a form of feminism, then I don't know what is. 

SHE SAID: GIRL, DO YOUR THANG. OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. 

Jane showed me that you don't have to be anyone other than yourself. All of the ladies she wrote about were true to themselves in some way or another. Fanny Price was reserved and shy, Emma was opinionated and passionate, Elizabeth was fiercely independent and loyal to those she loved. All of the women in the novels had unique characteristics that made them who they were, and each of them stayed true to themselves, even if they were not the prettiest, most accomplished, "ideal" woman for the time. After Mr. Darcy slights Lizzie, she doesn't change herself to become more like the other ladies, instead she calls him out on his outdated ideas of what makes a woman accomplished and ultimately stays true to herself. And if that's not a form of feminism, then I don't know what is.